Project Evaluation Planning: The General Guidelines
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Evaluating a project means performing a rigorous analysis of completed goals, objectives and activities to determine whether the project has produced planned results, delivered expected benefits, and made desired change. As a process, project evaluation takes a series of steps to identify and measure the outcomes and impacts resulted from project completion. In this article, let’s find out how to evaluate projects, what indicators to consider, and how to design a project evaluation plan.
The project evaluation process involves an analysis of different components or indicators that characterize the project’s progress towards the achievement of its goals and objectives. These components/indicators are Outcomes and Impacts.
These are any measurable and auditable changes that can be obtained as a result of the project’s successful accomplishment. They determine the extent to which the identified problems have been mitigated, resolved, or eliminated.
In terms of project evaluation and management, outcomes define the measurable results and benefits that are observable within the targeted environment once the project is done. They serve as the general indicator of project progress towards successful implementation of project goals and objectives. Outcomes describe short-term and medium-term effects generated by the project.
Several examples of project outcomes are:
- New skills and competencies obtained by personnel
- Improved knowledge
- Increased understanding of business environment
- Proactive participation in decision making
These are the indicator of changes that can be specifically linked to the project’s implementation activity. Impacts determine and measure the extent to which goals and objectives of the project are achieved.
In terms of project evaluation and management, impacts define the tangible and intangible effects (consequences) of the project upon the environment in which this project is implemented. They measure the change made by the project and show how close the goals and objectives are achieved.
Some examples of project impacts are as follows:
- Increased quality of a product/service
- Decreased incidence of diseases in the targeted region
- Higher number of students wishing to obtain master degree
- Enhanced productivity of personnel
The key difference between impacts and outcomes is that impacts produce a long-term, lasting effect that is observable for months and years after project completion.
The project implementation process is carried out in a step-by-step and consistent manner, which means there is a series of actions or stages that can describe the project from a strategic point of view. Project implementation can be presented as a series of the following consistent stages:
The series is dependent on time, which is the key constraint that defines the sequence of the implementation process. In this context, the purpose of project evaluation is to disclose the relationships between outcomes and impacts of a project and to find out whether the project is completed on time.
Exploration and analyzing of the relationships between project outcomes, impacts, goals, objectives, and activities can be managed under a project evaluation plan. Such a plan provides a set of tools to measure progress in implementing the project and its key components, such as goals, objectives, and activities. A project evaluation plan also focuses on assessing project effectiveness and efficiency through exploring and analyzing the outcomes and impacts.
A Project Evaluation Plan is a detailed document that defines and sets forth practices and sequence of activities for analyzing and examining the project by certain evaluation criteria. This document aims to determine project effectiveness and efficiency through tracking progress on each objective, completion of activities, and dates of completion.
There is no exact number of indicators or evaluation criteria that must be used in evaluating projects. There is also no predefined set of activities for running the evaluation, because every project is unique and has certain goals and objectives.
In designing a project evaluation plan, we recommend the following general guidelines for project evaluation:
Step #1. Identify outcome and impact
You can use status of the goals and objectives of your project as the framework for project evaluation. Achievement of a goal or objective is achieved creates certain short- or middle-term results and benefits, which are outcomes. Through measuring outcomes you can understand the extent of goal achievement.
Outcomes generate certain long-term effects which are impacts. Through evaluating project impacts you can identify the project overall effect on the environment it’s targeted to.
Step #2. Choose evaluation method
What project evaluation method will be used to measure outcomes and impacts? In your evaluation plan you need to include a method that helps determine whether the goals and objectives are completed and whether the project generates desired change. Your evaluation method will focus on results and benefits (outcomes) as well as effects (impacts).
Here’re several examples of methods you can include in your project evaluation plan template:
- Implementation reviews
- Focus groups
- Records analysis
Step #3. Report on the evaluation
The final item in our guidelines for project evaluation is about reviewing the work done and creating a project evaluation report. Such a report includes your conclusions about the project’s ability to produce desired change and accomplishing preset goals and objectives.
Using evaluation criteria, you must explore whether your project was undertaken in a manner consistent with the original plan and whether project activities contributed to project success. In other words, you need to confirm whether goals and objectives are fully achieved during the course of the project and whether desired outcomes and impacts have been reached. Once developed, your evaluation report should be submitted to the management team for review and further decision making.